Ryley calls for end of impartiality rules in U.K.

The head of Sky News, the U.K. newsie controlled by News Corp., has defended Fox News and called for the scrapping of impartiality rules that prevent a Brit version of Fox News to be licensed.

John Ryley told the Cambridge Union Society he admired Fox News, which earlier this week was attacked by Rupert Murdoch’s son-in-law, Matthew Freud, for undermining journalistic standards.

The Sky News topper said, “At Sky News, we provide impartial and independent news. That’s not because Ofcom (the media regulator) tells us to but because it’s what our audience expects of us. In simple terms, it’s good business for us to be impartial.”

Ryley added, “That’s not to say there aren’t different ways of approaching television news. Whatever you think of Fox News, there is no denying that it has shaken up the sometimes staid world of U.S. TV news by using commentators like Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity alongside its core news output.”

In an era of almost limitless information choice, Ryley said that it was “anachronistic, patronising and unnecessary” to “enforce a universal obligation of impartiality on all forms of television news.”

“We should trust journalists to exercise editorial judgements and we should trust viewers to choose the news that they want to consume,” he added. Ryley’s endorsement of Fox News follows Freud’s attack in the New York Times on the U.S. newsie.

Freud said he was “ashamed and sickened by (Fox News topper) Roger Ailes’ horrendous and sustained disregard of the journalistic standards that News Corp., its founder and every other global media business aspires to.”Freud, who is married to Elisabeth Murdoch, said that he was “by no means alone within the family or the company” in holding such hostile views of Fox News.

Following Freud’s broadside, News Corp. told the Financial Times that “Freud’s opinions are his own and in no way reflect the views of Rupert Murdoch.”

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